I have been feeling guilty and have been very hard on myself for a really long time. You see, I haven't been to church in longer than I care to admit - besides a couple visits here and there, it's probably been a few years now. It breaks my heart, as church and my family / church family (my family and I are members of the same church) has always been a constant rock in my life. But, I have a lot of difficulty with many aspects of the church-going experience, so here I am.
I miss it. I miss being surrounded by others that love Christ. I miss the Scripture, the songs, the sermons, the community. I miss feeling His presence.
My church has been streaming podcasts of the weekly sermons for a while now. I started listening to them, when they first started, but I haven't stayed disciplined in listening to them. For whatever reason, I decided to pull one up this morning and listen to it. Where should I start? At the beginning? The most recent? So, I just kinda randomly chose one... it ended up being the sermon from May 5, 2013. Wow!
The sermon speaks to how Jesus Christ came to simplify our lives and our faith. We are called as God's people to live and love simply.
I've been thinking a lot about this idea of living simply, as I definitely do not. I over-complicate and over-analyze my life so much!
We over-complicate life, and Christ came to simplify it. We over-complicate our relationship with God, and Christ wants it more simple. We over-complicate forgiving other people (perhaps most of all, ourselves), loving other people... and it's all really simple. Christ came so that all are forgiven and loved. All we have to do is accept it and offer it to others. Simple. But, simple is not easy. A simple life of faith is not easy.
It's easier to only love and forgive certain people (for example, people that think or believe what we believe), but it's simpler to love and forgive everyone. And, we're called, as God's people, to love and forgive everyone - just as God loves and forgives us, unconditionally. It's not easy to love everyone unconditionally, but it's simpler.
Take, for example, Simon Peter. Simon Peter publicly and blatantly denies knowing Jesus three times (John 18:15-27). In a stark difference from the rules and regulations of the day to cleanse and repent for denying God, Jesus responds by asking a simple question... "Do you love me?" (John 21:15-17).
In order to be made holy and righteous, and be reconnected and back in relation with God, all He asks is, "Do you love me?" The only other thing we're asked to do is to simply go love and forgive others the way we've been loved and forgiven by God.
No matter how much we've messed up, how far we've strayed, what we've done... if we want to be forgiven by God and be in a relationship with God, all we have to do is answer this question:
Do you love Me, and will you go and love other people the way I've loved you? ~GodWow! What a huge release of so much guilt, disappointment, and hate that I've held toward myself. There's nothing difficult that I have to do to try to make things right between God and me. I love God, and I do my best to share His love and forgiveness with others. I feel like not being able to make it to church has somehow stifled my relationship with Him, but maybe He's growing me in different ways right now. I do hope to be able to rejoin my church community in weekly worship and service, but I'm trying to find peace in doing what I can right now... growing my relationship with God from where I am, knowing that the Lord of All has the reigns in my life.
All we have to do is accept God's unconditional love and forgiveness in our lives, and then go offer it to other people. That's it. So simple!